Jacques de Vitry, Exempla (XX)
DE DIABOLO QUI DUXIT UXOREM CUIUS LITIGIA NON POTERAT SUSTINERE
“I heard that a certain demon, who had taken the form of a human and was serving a rich man, had pleased the man so much by his industry in servitude that the man gave him his daughter in marriage in addition to great riches. The wife, however, was constantly arguing with her husband day and night and would not allow him to sleep. At the end of the year, the demon said to his wife’s father, ‘I would like to withdraw and return to my homeland.’ The wife’s father said, ‘Have I not given you so much that you want for nothing?’ The demon responded, ‘I will tell you, and won’t hide the truth: my homeland is in Hell, where I never had to deal with as much strife and harassment as I have suffered in this one year from my argumentative wife. I would rather be in Hell than to linger any longer here with her.’ After this speech was finished, he vanished from their sight.”
Audivi quod quidam daemon in specie hominis cuidam diviti homini serviebat et, cum servitium eius et industria multum placerent homini, dedit ei filiam suam in uxorem et divitias multas. Illa autem omni die ac nocte litigabat cum marito suo nec eum quiescere permittebat. In fine autem anni dixit patri uxoris suae: “Volo recedere et in patriam meam redire.” Cui pater uxoris ait: “Nonne multa tibi dedi ita quod nihil desit tibi? Quare vis recedere?” Dixit ille: “Modis omnibus volo repatriare.” Cui socer ait: “Ubi est patria tua?” Ait ille: “Dicam tibi et veritatem non celabo; patria mea est infernus, ubi numquam tantam discordiam vel molestiam sustinui quantam hoc anno passus sum a litigiosa uxore mea. Malo esse in inferno quam amplius cum ipsa commorari.” Et hoc dicto ab oculis eorum evanuit.
4 thoughts on “The Devil Who Took a Wife”
Who the hell is de Vitry and how did you come upon this? Amazing. And Awful.
He’s a Medieval ecclesiastic who left behind a series of sermons which end with these preposterous exempla appended to the end, many of them taken from stories which he heard during his time preaching in Palestine. I found it while flipping through a Medieval Latin reader. ‘Nemo liber tam malus est quin aliqua parte prosit’!
Actually, I have begun to find a lot of Medieval Latin fascinating in the extreme. Right out of college, I used to think that there wasn’t enough time to read all of the great stuff already contained in the canonical Classics curriculum, but it’s so paltry when compared to all of the later Byzantine scholarship, wacky Medieval scholasticism, and Renaissance humanist writing out there. My students often try to get me to read this book or that book, and I tell them, ‘Look, I have something like 1,000 books already in the queue! It will take a while!’
Not only is there so much outside the classical canon worthy of reading, but it actually helps us understand the reception and use of that canon. I am pretty sure I have you in part to thank for my current and likely endless obsession for obscurity.
The book queue is nice: to go back to yesterday’s sentimental discussions, the end of a book is like the end of a life. An endless reading list is like a journey that promises never to cease, with remarkable, maddening, and unpredictable stops on its course.